There’s an old saying, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” If you’re wondering why Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges is transparently mealy mouthed about his limp support for Donald Trump, his party’s presidential nominee who clobbered all other challengers including his home state hero, look no further than the hand that fed him his current lucrative position.
The hand that rocks the cradle for Matt Borges belongs to Gov. John Kasich, a 64-year old politician who loves to play hardball and sometimes dirty politics, even though he holds himself out to be a moderate politico who thought offering hugs, hopes, homilis, and inspiration was the right recipe to win his way to the White House.
For all those who could and should be better off had John Kasich and his clan of just-say-no obstructionist Republicans who vowed to oppose virtually every solution offered by President Barack Obama after he won two national elections with more than 50 percent of the vote, they can assign blame to where it should be, with Kasich and Sen. Rob Portman, whose work as budget director under President George W. Bush teed up the nation for the deplorable economic mess Obama had to climb out of without an iota of help from the obsolete Washington establishment lane politicos like represent.
The recent spat of articles about Mr. Borges being on the outs with the Donald never mentions, either because of omission or just sheer research laziness, that Kasich handpicked Borges even though he has a conviction rap sheet—now since expunged as if it never happened—as an influence peddler for former GOP state treasurer Joe Deters for whom he served as chief of staff from 1999 to 2001.
Luckily for those who do research, the Internet still coughs up reminders of the past if anyone cares to look. It would be laughable to think that John Kasich hasn’t dreamed of being president since George W. Bush first squashed that dream like a bug in 2000. It would likewise be preposterous to believe that when he won his first race for governor in 2010 that he wasn’t planning a second run after being reelected four years later. Reporters naively asked him if that was the case, and Kasich, who knows how to play the media for fools, refused to discuss it. To those who understands his political acumen, Kasich’s hide-and-seek game only confirmed that that’s exactly what he intended to do.
So why did Kasich and political bosom buddy Portman team up with all other sitting GOP politicos at the time to endorse Borges for the powerful post over the heir apparent Robert Bennett picked to follow in his footsteps? Because Kasich and Portman knew, based on Borges’ past shady behavior, that includes a misdemeanor conviction for overt play-to-play politics, that he would be the kind of wrecking crew chairman Husted-loyalist Kevin DeWine might fail to be.
Reporting at the time on Borges and his conviction, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, went something like this: “Borges, 32, of Columbus pleaded guilty to one count of improper use of public office, a misdemeanor, and was fined $1,000 by Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Eileen Gallagher. Court documents said he gave preferential treatment to certain brokers who made contributions to Deters’ re-election campaign.” Frank Gruttadauria from Cleveland is in prison for bilking his clients out of $125 million.
Borges’ attorney, the son of long-time Republican powerhouse William Saxbe, called the plea agreement “an uneventful conclusion to a 14-month fishing expedition.” In a twisted defense of his illegal actions, Matt Borges, who before Kasich’s putsch to oust Dewine was hundreds of thousands in debt, said he only pled guilty to avoid a costly and lengthy trial that would have eventually proved his innocence. Rocky Saxbe, Matt’s attorney at the time, said, “The notion that our client was ever engaged in bribery or ‘pay-to-play’ is absurd.” Pay to play is exactly what Borges was engaged in. And John Kasich, who’s is no stranger to Nixon-era style dirty politics, knew exactly who he was picking and why he was picking Borges.
One individual who worked out Borges’ plea agreements, asked out loud why, if Borges is so convinced of his innocence, he wouldn’t vacate his plea and go to trial? “He pled guilty and is admitting to the charges,” said Thomas Sammon, special Cuyahoga County prosecutor assigned to investigate the case. “How is he now saying he only did this for convenience sake?”
Another fascinating tidbit to the story reporters seem clueless about is that Borges accepted money from Gruttadauria, who was hired by SG Cowen Corp. and Lehman Brothers Inc, the Wall Street banking firm John Kasich worked for for six years before it tanked after the housing bubble burst, contributing to the great meltdown on Wall Street. From 1999 to 2001, Gruttadauria and these two firms did a combined $5.9 billion in investment trades with Deters’ office. What an inconvenient coincidence.
As the Enquirer reported at the time, “If one reads what (Borges) admitted doing, he used the power of his office to gain favorable treatment for vendors that did business with the office,” Sammon, a special prosecutor, said. He added, “To me, that’s a very serious offense.” That serious offense was obviously not so serious that when an Enquirer reporter hung out with Borges and his wife for the last presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, his conviction in a court of law didn’t warrant a mention in the fluff piece about the GOP’s political bruiser who apparently thinks he’s now ready to be the RNC’s next national chairman.
Borges’ aspiration to be national chairman has been fed by Ohio media, which in turn has coddled John Kasich throughout his long and lucrative political career, despite his second ignominious flop running for president this year, losing 49 states and winning only one, Ohio, by less than 50 percent, which seems odd since he’s constantly referred to by them as a popular governor.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman and U.S. House Speaker John Boehner of West Chester also were among those who signed on to back Borges,
But for those who understand inside baseball at the Statehouse, reporters consistently show their ineptitude by failing to investigate how Borges was investigated in the first place. Close examination of Borges’ rise from ignominy under Deters to his current perch atop Republican party apparatus happened when Gruttadaria’s Ponzi scheme collapsed. That collapse revealed the theft in office since Gruttadaria was one of only eight money managers selected to run state money. And since Gruttadaria, based out of Cleveland, had no experience to justify the business handed him, prosecutors wanted to know how he got the business.
Scandals like the one Borges was complicit in start, to no ones surprise, by hiring former staffers of governors, as happened when Gruttadaria hired former George Voinovich staffer Andy Futey, who set up the pay-to-play system. Knowledgeable inside sources tell Plunderbund that Borges co-conspirator Sagun then set up the concealment that enabled Borges to steer the business to Gruttadaria, with Joe Deters approval. Frank Gruttadaria admitted to using bribes to get the business, and his brokerage firms paid Ohio back all fees, thereby admitting the business was obtained through illegal methods. Mr. Deters’ failings in office are long forgotten and he’s no worse for wear as Hamilton County’s prosecutor.
Flash forward to 2014 when Kasich was running for reelection and thought the race might be close. Borges admitted to the media that the state Republican Party was paying convicted public corruption violator Terry Casey’s legal fees. Borges knew he made a rhetorical fumble, so he recanted his admission after Casey’s lawyers told Borges he was setting Casey up for possible perjury charges and Casey’s attorney John Zeiger, a Republican lawyer who represents the Columbus Dispatch and whose law firm now represents the Ohio Department of Education in its battle with ECOT, for suborning perjury in the Charley Earl case. Plunderbund has led the field in reporting on Mr. Earl’s case that shows the lengths John Kasich will go to win in the game of politics.
Those who have followed Ohio Republican politics for a long time say that before Matt Borges can ever be Republican National Committee Chairman, he needs to explain how Frank Gruttadaria got selected to manage money with zero experience? Borges has never explained how he came to that decision, he just asserts it wasn’t because of a campaign bribe. Sources with knowledge of how inside baseball works in the Republican establishment ask what else could it have been other than overt pay-to-play politics? Meanwhile, Ohio’s Fourth Estate has never asked and never will.
Borges is so beholden to the hand that rocks his cradle that his allegiance to John Kasich and his impossible dream to again be a factor in presidential politics in 2020 has become the target of Donald Trump supporters. Being on the outs with the Donald isn’t good for Matt Borges, and Trump supporters are letting him know that, as a call to show up outside state Republican Party headquarters in Columbus Monday to show their displeasure for how he’s abandoned their candidate with just three weeks left until votes are tabulated show.
USA for Trump 2016 tweeted Monday to Trump supporters: “Ohioans, it’s time to unite! Show up to protest the @ohiogop and @ChairmanBorges 211 S 5th Street, Columbus, OH.
Recently, more proof surfaced that Borges’ was never in Trump’s corner when it became known that he created a fake Twitter account in the name of Donald Trump’s Ohio campaign director, Bob Paduchik. Such a nasty state director, but that’s exactly why Kasich picked him.
And when this abnormal election is over, what’s left of the Republican Party may not be what it once was or what political pals like Kasich and Borges want it to be. Bruce Bartlett, who worked for President Ronald Reagan, said that even after Trump loses this year, the GOP is still toast.
“Trump’s candidacy has exacerbated the Republican Party’s weaknesses, alienating minorities, fracturing the base and stunting smart policy development,” he said. Bartlett said the structural problems of the GOP are so severe that reform is impossible. “Even if Trump loses and the GOP races to forget him, the party is doomed…And very few of our leaders seem to care.” It will be easy for Republicans in the short run to convince themselves that nothing needs to change, he says, but the establishment believes that Trump is an anomaly, an aberration.
Back in Ohio, where bellwether status as the must-win state is cloudy, John Kasich is a lame duck leader with only two years left until he leaves office. Hand picking how he uses the press, Kasich, who wants to remake his GOP in his own image that remains ill defined, told Business Insider this: “..if the Republican Party does not evolve, the Republican Party is going to die. The Republican Party cannot be anti-trade, anti-immigrant, not out there practicing the politics of people, you know, the issues surrounding drug addiction and mental illness and the cost of prescription drugs and healthcare and student debt and all of these things are very personal to people now. And if the party wants to have an ideological debate, it’s never going to win anything in a major way. So I do believe that the party needs to evolve, or I won’t be a part of it.” That may be mutually agreeable since current RNC chairman Priebus said Kasich may not be welcome in 2020 after his performance this year.
A performance politician like John Kasich would love nothing better than to have Borges promoted from Ohio state party chairman to national chairman, so his convicted bruiser can raise the former Lehman Brothers banker from the dead once he leaves office and drifts into obscurity as a vagabond politician. Four years is a lifetime in politics, and by 2020, President Hillary Clinton will be the incumbent and stronger than ever as demographics and attitude continue to shift blue. If Kasich wants the crown, he’ll have to defeat Mike Pence or Paul Ryan or Ted Cruz or who knows who by then. If he couldn’t raise money and couldn’t win this year when he was the sitting governor of Ohio, why should his fortunes be any better in 2020 when he’s out of office, out of mind and probably out of luck?